An indicator of how slow the NFL news is this time of the year, ESPN.com just released its NFL power rankings – for the year 2016. Get your bets down early, the panel of experts considers the Seattle Seahawks the third-best team, trailing rival San Francisco at No. 1 and Green Bay at No. 2. (Nostradamus had the Seahawks ahead of the Packers).
The projections are based on expected strength of roster, quarterback, draft, front office and coaching. The problems of such a challenge are obvious, and extend beyond the premise itself. But the relative expectations are fair extensions of current franchise strengths, even though so little in the NFL has a predictable shelf life.
Perhaps of more interest than the rankings of the Niners and Hawks is that the panel expects St. Louis to be a solid contender by then, having benefited greatly from the draft picks the Rams received in the trade that allowed Washington to draft RGIII last spring. They rank the 2016 the Rams at No. 8. It’s not hard to imagine as the Rams (4-1-1) had the best record in NFC West play last season.
Between the Niners and Hawks, San Francisco was rated slightly better in the categories of roster, draft, front office and coaching. They were rated the same at quarterback, expecting Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson to be equally productive three seasons from now.
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At Seahawks.com, Clare Farnsworth shapes a story about the value of reserve players. The thrust of the story, though, is the remarkable good fortune the Hawks had last season in regards to team health. Nine defenders and eight offensive players started at least 15 games in 2012.
Mike Sando’s NFC West blog offers some interesting comparisons among league quarterbacks based on total quarterback ratings (QBR) over the past three seasons. In contrast to the traditional NFL passer rating, the QBR factors in situational data assessing the importance and timeliness of certain plays. A score of 100 is the maximum, and a 90 is reached or exceeded only 10 percent of the time. Sando looked at scores of 90 or better the past three seasons. Despite having only 16 starts, Russell Wilson had five games at 90+. For comparison, that’s three fewer than Eli Manning in 48 games, one fewer than Joe Flacco in 48 starts, or as many as Matt Schaub in 42 starts.
Wilson's numbers are even more impressive as a percentage of such performances per start, Peyton Manning (10 in 32) reached that level 31.3 percent of the time to share the top spot with Wilson (5-16). Rodgers (30.4), Brady (27.1) and Brees (22.9) followed.
A link out of Seahawks.com expands on the new NFL bag policy at league stadiums. Jeff Miller (NFL chief security officer) said that public safety is the driving force behind the policy, and cited the attack at the Boston Marathon as an influence. The effort, he said, is to balance fan safety with the quality of stadium experience. He added that a number of teams are going to roll over the policy to include training camp practices as well.
Brock and Danny at 710ESPN Seattle offered quick opinions on the question of how being the subject of the HBO series “Hard Knocks” would have affected the Seahawks. While the Seahawks would make great theater, Danny O’Neil correctly points out how invasive and potentially disruptive the behind-closed-doors coverage would be.
They also furthered their discussion on the Pro Football Talk’s polls on which four icons belonged on the franchise's Mount Rushmore. In addition to the three obvious choices (Largent, Jones and Tez) Danny thinks Shaun Alexander should be on it, a nod to the fact that he's the only league MVP in team history. Brock goes with Easley. I’m with Brock, although I think I wouldn't go to the expense of chiseling a fourth face on the mountain just yet. The PFT vote put Alexander on the mountain, with the 12th man finishing fifth.